Here is an important question to ask yourself: are you a fast, moderate, or slow eater? If you’re like most people, you’re too busy checking items off your to-do list, running from one obligation to the next, and distracted by your phone to sit down to a leisurely meal. What if I told you that living like a hamster on a wheel creates a day-in and day-out stress response that decreases your calorie burning capacity, elevates the hormones insulin and cortisol, and takes a serious toll on your digestion? I bet I have your attention now!
Having a go-go-go mentality can be useful at times (like when you’re up against a project deadline, or you’ve just robbed a bank ), but on a regular basis, it’s not doing you any favors. The body isn’t designed to sustain a long-term stress response, which is what happens when your body perceives a threat (either real or imagined) to its survival. Mother nature gives the human body between 2-4 minutes to enter into a stress response in order to outrun a bear, but any longer than that and we get into risky territory. Many of us live our lives in a long-term state of chronic stress, which has many negative implications.
For those of us looking to shape shift the body, lose weight, improve digestion, and increase metabolism, there is much to be gained from slowing down. When we are stressed, the heart rate speeds up, blood pressure increases, hormones that provide quick energy such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol are released into the circulatory system, and blood flow is shunted away from the midsection. In a full-blown stress response, the digestive system completely shuts down. No wonder that eating on the run, being preoccupied with work or relationship issues, as well as self-chosen stress such as anxiety, fear, self-judgment, and negative thoughts like “I’m fat” leave us feeling like our last meal is just sitting in the stomach and unable to obtain our body goals.
You can eat the most health-giving meal in the world, but if you’re eating it in a state of anxiety, the body is not able to properly assimilate the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from the food. The lesson to be learned here is that what we eat is only half of the equation, how we eat (the emotional and mental state we are in) is the other half.
An easy way to remember this is that during a stress response, the body’s sympathetic nervous system kicks on and goes into “fight or flight” mode. Alternatively, when the parasympathetic nervous system is on, we enter into a state of “rest and digest.” This is the sweet spot where the body is relaxed and able to properly assimilate and calorie-burn a meal without digestive discomfort afterward.
So what to do? Here are some easy tips to help you access the parasympathetic nervous system before a meal:
- Take 5-10 long, slow deep breaths into the belly
- Close your eyes and give thanks for your meal. Feel a sense of tranquility and gratitude for the nourishment you are about to receive.
- Create a meal-time experience: set the table, put on music, heck, use the good china! Anything to facilitate a feeling of wanting to slow down and enjoy the experience.
- Set aside at least 20 minutes. That’s how long it takes for the body to start to signal satiation. The longer you linger over your food, relishing every bite and chewing properly, the better your body will be able to communicate its hunger and fullness level to you.
- Sit down and tune in. Turn off your computer, the TV, and put away your cell phone. Make a point to be present with your food and reduce distractions to a minimum.
What do you think? Are you ready to slow down in order to speed up your metabolism, digestion, and nutrient assimilation? Let me know in the comments below!
Love + Light,